A gem of a program that doesn't get as much attention as it deserves is the home-based option of Youth In Need's Head Start and Early Head Start program. At any given time, Youth In Need is serving more than 750 young children (ages 0-5) and their families in the home-based program, which spans the region from St. Louis City to Montgomery County. Our wonderful Family Educators make weekly 90-minute home visits, truly partnering with parents and families in helping children learn and grow. I want to share excerpts from two recent testaments to the power of this program:
New Board member Da'Vione Johnson asked to shadow staff on a home visit as part of his orientation process. He wrote me a lovely note afterwards, sharing how this meaningful experience made him reflect on the desire of every parent to do the best for their children, the unfortunate circumstances faced by our families, often just because of chance, and the fact that "it could be me." Da'Vione observed "…I knew there was magic taking place in this home on these visits. This was the high point of the week for this family. I saw desire and passion from the mother, wanting better for her children…I was able to see first-hand the hope being generated in our homes…It truly was a humbling and powerful experience."
Our own Latoya Hardrict, Family Educator in St. Charles and Head Start parent herself, spoke eloquently at our Board Retreat last fall and at the Celebration of Youth event in March, sharing her home-based Head Start experience on both sides of the equation. Describing the program, Latoya said "It was a godsend" that "helped me see how amazing my family was and how to make it stronger." She went on tshare how she and her husband got very involved with the program, leading socialization activities, interviewing prospective staff, and serving on Policy Council, the parent governing body. In a beautiful twist, Latoya earned her college degree and, looked for a place to work where she could "give back to the community—a career where I could use my education and skills to help others." She said " last August I found the perfect fit…I started as a Family Educator for Youth In Need." She now has an even deeper appreciation for how much Family Educators at Youth In Need contribute to the success of families, helping them grow strong and stay strong.
According to Latoya, "Parents have so much power to impact their children for better or for worse, and there is no manual. Head Start helps children be ready for kindergarten but it also helps parents be better parents, to survive and even thrive no matter what circumstances they face. I know. I've been on the receiving end, and now it's my turn to make a difference in the lives of other families." And that is what Head Start home-based is all about.
Thank you, Latoya, and thanks to ALL of the amazing Youth In Need Head Start home-based staff for truly making a difference.